Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana, Part 1

Lauderdale County, Miss. A growing trend, especially among young people, is the use of Spice, or synthetic marijuana, a substance that can be as easy to buy as chips and a soft drink, although it's illegal in the twin states.

Covered by flashy packaging that some consider as hip and harmless, Spice is what has become the second most popular illegal drug of choice by high school seniors.

Behind marijuana, this synthetic marijuana that some bill as being safe, natural and legal in some cases only helps to boost the popularity of this sometimes deadly drug.

Illegal in Mississippi, Alabama and at least ten other states, synthetic marijuana is referred to by the Drug Enforcement Administration as possibly being five times more powerful than marijuana.

''You get a similar high as with marijuana, but with much more serious physical problems associated with it," said Dr. Lin Hogan, advanced substance abuse counselor with Weems Community Health Center in Meridian. "It comes in these very shiny little packages that are very appealing to young people, and it will actually say on the package, 'not fit for human consumption'."

It's that disclaimer which Hogan says allows the substance to legally be sold in some states over the counter at convenience stores or head shops.

"In some cases it's out there where you can look and see what you want, but in a lot of cases it's behind the counter, and you kind of have to ask for it," Hogan said. "But unfortunately, you can also buy it off the Internet."

Synthetic marijuana is made up of a mixture that contains common herbs that have been sprayed with synthetic chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana, but are actually much more lethal.

Smoking synthetic marijuana affects the cerebellum of the brain, which controls movement. According to Hogan, when some people smoke this it can prohibit them from talking or moving, and in some cases cause them to fall out and start to die.

"There are about 2,000 people per month who go to an emergency room due to using this drug," Hogan said. "There have been people who have said that 'I could not see. I could not feel.' They said that this must be what death is like."

In Part 2 of our report, Newscenter 11 talks with one user who says she knows all too well about how deadly this illegal drug can be.